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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

President Trump enjoyed unified control of the entire federal government for two years. He forgot to get his wall funded during those two years. Now he’s taken the entire federal government hostage at the point at which he probably can’t any longer get it.

Not only do no Democrats support any version of the President’s wall fantasy. They don’t fear his supporters or his bully pulpit. They just concluded an election in which Trump made border paranoia and race baiting the central campaign issue. They won a resounding victory. Democrats have no incentive to give him anything to encourage his reckless behavior and they are in fact offering nothing. Republican leaders today were verging on apoplexy because Democrats were refusing to negotiate in response to Trump’s hostage taking.

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As you’ve probably seen, The New York Times issued a major correction early this afternoon. They now say that Paul Manafort had his Ukraine-based fixer Konstantin Kilimnik send polling data not to Oleg Deripaska but to Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainian oligarchs who were major financial backers of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Manafort’s longtime client. This is a pretty big difference and a major error by the Times. But I’m not sure it really changes the big picture. These are both oligarchs tied to the pro-Russian faction in Ukraine, though Akhemetov seems now to have fallen out or at least strayed from the Moscow line and is now paying a price for it.

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[Ed. Note: Early this afternoon, the Times published a correction. Manafort asked for his campaign data to be passed not to Oleg Deripaska but two pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs named Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, financial backers of Viktor Yanukovych. This is a major correction and a major error. But as I explain here, I don’t think it changes the big picture. Manafort was sending confidential campaign data back to pro-Russian figures in Ukraine while Russia was conducting a major effort to elect Donald Trump. I’ve left the post below as written before the Times‘ correction.]

As I signaled last night, the seemingly accidental redaction error in the Manafort legal filing combined with the news published mid-evening by The New York Times is one of the biggest revelations in more than two years of the Trump/Russia scandal. It’s bigger than the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, though the two cases can’t be fully understood without reference to each other. Just as importantly, these new revelations combined with earlier reports effectively end the debate about whether there was ‘collusion’ between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. There was. It wasn’t marginal. It was happening at the very top of the campaign. The campaign manager was secretly funneling campaign data and information to a Russian oligarch closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, someone who had no possible use for such information other than to use it in the Russian efforts to get Donald Trump elected President.

Let’s review the key details.

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I think the hoopla over President Trump’s Oval Office address tonight has temporarily blunted or distracted people from the full import of what the Times just reported about the Trump campaign polling data. They may even have missed some of it themselves since they buried that nugget well down into the piece. Paul Manafort was secretly sharing confidential campaign polling data with a top Russian oligarch who is closely tied to Vladimir Putin. To me this really ends the debate about ‘collusion’, to the extent there still was one. It seems bigger than the Trump Tower meeting.

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There’s your collusion. Manafort had Kilimnik pass the polling data to Oleg Deripaska.

From the Times

Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said. It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort was acting at the campaign’s behest or independently, trying to gain favor with someone to whom he was deeply in debt.

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David Axelrod said a couple days ago that the the Oval Office format is the worst format for President Trump. Boy, is that right. It’s scripted. It plays to his woodenness reading a script. He doesn’t get the energy from a crowd. This was the same script he’s been reading from for months. If anything, it was more muddled because his speechwriters dropped a number of the more jarring lies. I think this meant basically nothing politically. At the same time, Pelosi and Schumer actually presented their case pretty clearly and well.

The new Manafort filing refers to Manafort conceding that he had discussed a “peace plan” for Ukraine with Konstantin Kilimnik on “more than one occasion”. What peace plan? Felix Sater says it’s not the same one he and Michael Cohen met with that Ukrainian lawmaker about. But Josh Kovensky points out to me that it’s almost certainly this one, which was reported in January 2017 as Kilimnik’s plan.

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In his filing today Manafort’s lawyers said he met with Konstantin Kilimnik in Madrid “during a period when Mr. Manafort was managing a U.S. presidential campaign.” Depending on how one interprets those words, that would either be between March and August or June and August 2016. His spokesman just clarified that they misspoke. He now claims it was in January 2017.

As you can see, the redactions in the Mueller court document released today were so clumsily redacted that numerous journalists quickly realized that the notionally redacted information was in fact viewable. These kinds of errors are so basic that I can’t totally rule out that this was an intentional mistake. However that may be, let’s look at some core revelations.

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